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SDHL: INTERVIEW- Dominique Kremer (DIF) - the most hard working people I've ever met

American Dominique Kremer is one of the new recruits at Stockholm Djurgården IF, who brought in a number of new signings in the summer of 2019 designed to develop a team capable of win the SDHL. Coming to the end of the regular season they are guaranteed a top four spot and are only the playoffs away from realising that dream.

Whilst the club's big name signing, Jennifer Wakefield (CAN), was already in Sweden, Kremer has come direct from the NCAA. However, she is already making her presence felt as the team’s top scoring defender (5G+11A) putting her at number 8 in the back scoring league. But she is modest in her assessment saying she doesn’t think her strengths lie in being a two-ways defender:

“I’m not super flashy, but I can almost always get the job done. I try to make the smart and simple plays that put my team in the best position to be successful. I’m best known for my speed, my hockey sense, and my ability to block shots.”

So whilst Wakefield, Sarah Bujold (CAN) and captain Andrea Dalen (NOR) keep the goals coming in at one end of the ice, Kremer and her college teammate and netminder, Samantha Ridgewell (CAN), are keeping the scores low behind the blue line.

Both her and Ridgewell played in the NCAA at Merrimack College, Massachusetts before moving to Stockholm this season. But the 22 year old American could have gone to play in the NWHL after being drafted in 2018 in Round 4 #17 by Connecticut Whale, the former team of HV71's Swedish forward, Michelle Löwenhielm.

Kremer again is self effacing when it comes to experience:

“Being drafted was a dream come true. I was told prior to the draft that it was unlikely that I would be chosen. Thus, I was shocked when my name was announced! I remember seeing my name and squealing with joy! I was completely honored and humbled by the entire experience.”

But the 22 year old decide to come to Sweden instead, just like 2017 Round 1 #2 drafted Kennedy Marchment (CAN) did last year. That's because Kremer feels the SDHL offers the best opportunities for women's league hockey:

"The skill level is incredibly high, not just from the Swedish players but from the import players brought in, as well." and then she adds with a laugh, "Plus, who wouldn’t want to live in Sweden?"

Djurgården IF have gone all in, bringing together a team to match the best in the league. There’s no hiding the club's ambition to see a repeat of 2016/7 when the Swedish national trophy came the Stockholm club under Jared Cipparone (read interview with Cipparone here). And Kremer is loving the experience of being inside a motivated and energetic squad,

"This year’s team is special simply because of the girls we have here. They are honestly the sweetest, kindest, most genuine, most driven, and most hard working people I have ever met. The team chemistry we have is awesome. Everyone gets along, and everyone supports each other. We’re all striving for the same goal and are willing to do just about anything to achieve it. They make me want to be a better player and person every day, and I can only hope that I do the same for them."

As a women's hockey player from North America, Kremer knows first hand that the sport is going through a challenging time.

"Obviously, I wish that women could make as much money as the men do. It would be nice to be able to play hockey for a living. That being said, I understand that at this point in time women do not bring in the kind of money that men do. It is ultimately boiled down to supply and demand, and women’s hockey is not super high in demand right now".

But just like a Brit On Thin Ice, Kremer believes the women's game has a lot to offer, "The women’s game is much more entertaining than most people think, and I believe if more people saw us play, they would realize what they were missing out on. I really just want people to give a women’s game a shot. Come to a couple of games and give us a chance... you might find out you love it and come back for more!"

A Brit On Thin Ice couldn't agree more.

When it comes to the sports industry success breeds success. And with Kremer and Djurgården with a great chance to medal in this year's SDHL, more fans should be interesting in coming to Hovet and seeing them. After all, as Kremer herself says, this is the best women's hockey league in Europe and, arguably, the best in the world today.

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SDHL: INTERVIEW- Jared Cipparone (AIK) - there's no untouchables

Love played a significant role in AIK current trainer, Jared Cipparone’s move from native Canada to Sweden – perhaps not surprising considering he was born on Valentine’s Day.


The early days: from player in Canada to manager in Sweden

Whilst at Carleton University he played in USports having already played in the Ontario Hockey League as a junior. There he met Alexandra Palm and after graduation they decided to move to her home town, Stockholm in Sweden and both pursue careers as pro hockey players.

Alexandra Cipparone, as she is now called since they got married in the summer of 2016, played with Segeltorp IF, the dominant team in the early days of the SDHL, winning the league with the team in 2010/1. She even captained the team before moving on to Djurgården IF.

Meanwhile, Jared worked his way up from Division 2 to Division 1 playing for different Stockholm clubs. But when his team had financial problems, he was not sure he wanted to go back to the lower division.

At the same time, he happened to be a one of Alexandra’s practices when they needed an Assistant Coach. Without thinking much about it he signed up only to find out later that the Head Coach had quit, “I kinda fell it… and I’m still there,” he laughs.

The move to Djurgården

Segeltorp IF where relegated in 2012/3 and the club was taken over to become Djurgården IF’s first ever women’s team. Both Alexandra and Jared decided to take up the new opportunity at Djurgården, who started in the Division 1 but with clear ambitions to go up to the SDHL.

Success was just around the corner for the Stockholm team and the duo played their part – Jared as Head Coach and Alexandra as captain in her final two years as a player.

“The women’s game has changed drastically since I got involved,” he reflects,” I mean, at every level – the shooting, the skill level, everything. Even if you compare the SDHL to last season, there’s no easy games anymore, anyone can win,” he says in an upbeat tone.

That has not always been the case and that moves us on to talking about one of the greatest upsets of SDHL history.

In 2016/7 Djurgården IF, with Jared at the helm, won the championship in an era that has been otherwise dominated by Luleå/ MSSK and Linköping HC.

“In hockey, you also need a bit of luck, and HV71 took out Luleå in the semis. It was a real team effort, something that was building all year. I think we learn a lot from losing to Linköping the year before. But we beat them in the semi after three matches and that gave us great confidence in the final, we knew we could go all the way and win.”

Understandably, it was one of the highlights of Jared’s managerial career which he was also able to share with Alexandra who captained the championship winning team.

Olympic highs and lows

He may have fallen into club management by accident, but becoming assistant manager for the Swedish Olympic team was also a major career highlight that found him rather than that he desperately reached out for it.

Leif Boork just phoned me up one day and said would I like to come to an international tournament. I had been at Djurgården three years and was not intending to carry on. Before too long I was behind the bench at the Olympics!” he says, still as though he can’t believe his luck.

But the results from the Pyeongchang Olympics were a great disappointment as the national team came seventh out of eight nations in the tournament. “It was really tough on the girls,” he says, “The mental side of the game was tough – there’s a lot of pressure. In the end, success was not really on their side”, he reflects with a manager’s skillful ability to not overplay the situation.

Back to club hockey at AIK

We turn finally to Jared’s current role, manager for the second year in AIK. Alexandra is no longer a player or manager alongside him as in the national team and the couple have a one year old daughter, Holly.

But whilst home life is very different, on the ice Jared is still the same, he’s again managing his team to greater success.

The club currently sit in 5th place at the top of group of four teams that make up a second echelon in the table. This is the club's best finish since 2016/7 and is a great improvement on last year’s 8th place.

And that without a huge amount of changes from last year or imports. “I think we’ve got a stable base of long-term players”, he says about the squad, “This year we’re building on what we did last year. The team has got used to me and my style of play and we brought a few players in key positions, to fill the gaps”.

There’s no doubt bringing in three internationals in the shape of the experienced Fanny Rask, one of Sweden’s top forwards from HV71, scoping Finland’s second netminder, Meeri Räisänen from Connecticut Whale as well Japanese international defender, Sena Suzuki from Toronto Furies were all smart signings.

That said, “winning is something you have to learn,” he says philosophically. “Last year we had a lot of close matches that we lost. This year we’ve got a team of winners - and that’s not just down to the new players, but to everyone stepping up. We’re staying in games, even when we’re down, and not getting frustrated.”

And Jared reveals a little bit more about his current coaching philosophy at AIK, “One thing that’s changed this year is that we’re minimising the information we give to the players, trying to give them more freedom,” he explains. “It’s not so much about “I’m in the wrong position”, but about adaptability, “how do I get into the right position?”.

The results seem to show the new approach is working.

Whilst they have brought in imports, they are still the club with the most Swedish players in the league. “No, we haven’t had a “policy” to just have Swedish players. But obviously we try to choose Swedish girls first and our long-term goal is to improve Swedish hockey. But having imports in the SDHL also improves the quality of play.”

We finish by looking ahead to the playoffs, where a medal place will certainly involve beating the top teams like HV71.

But Jared is not daunted by the task, “Anyone can beat anyone in this year’s SDHL, there’s no untouchables. So, we’re going to concentrate on our game, not change everything for the playoffs. I say you’ve got to find your game before the playoffs. This is a work hard team, they forecheck well, are good in the transition and are improving in defense. Each line has its own character”.

It’s clear that Jared believes in his team and with both national success and Olympic experience behind him he’s got every reason to be confident in his methods. He will soon be 34 years and can be sure he will do all he can to steer this talented and improving team towards his second, and the club’s third, SDHL championship.

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SDHL: HV71 win regular season in impressive style

HV71 win regular season

A year is along time in hockey and this weekend, when HV71 beat MODO Hockey 10-0 in back to back meetings away in Örnsköldsvik, the difference between the 2018/9 and 2019/20 could not be more clear.

Even the HV71 men’s team seems inspired by the women, winning yesterday’s match against Färjestad BK with an impressive goal production, running out winners, 8-4!


MODO Hockey

Last year MODO were in second place by the end of the season with the league’s top scorer in their team, Canadian and former Toronto Furies, Michela Cava. Arguably, had they not lost import players to injury (like Brooke Boquist who is now at Leksand IF), they could won the league. Instead they went out for the second year in a row to Linköping HC in the semis.

In 2018/9 HV71 were a team with a great keeper in Alba Gonzalo, and one or two outstanding players, particularly the young Finn, Sanni Hakala, but in the end were not a team that threatened for a medal place.

This year MODO are without Cava or Kaitlyn Tougas, the latter of whom has moved to HV71. This double loss partly explains why they are ninth place, 9 points behind Linköping HC in eighth. It means that unless they win all their games, the Örnskoldsvik club look set to go down into qualification for next year's SDHL against the top teams from Division 1.


Luleå/ MSSK

The Jönköping team, however, sit comfortably at the top of the league table, where they have been all season. Even with four games to go they are 14 points clear of second placed Luleå.

Talk about the difference of a year- this weekend bottom of the table HC Gothenburg visited Luleå for back to back meetings. Whilst Luleå won 5-2 on Friday, on Saturday the visitors forced the Norrbotten team to come from behind and took them all the way to penalties before Jenni Hiirikoski broke the deadlock to take a 2-1 victory.

This showed both the improvement of the west coast team, who were only 13:34 minutes from winning, as well as the vulnerability of the reigning champions.

Times are a-changing at Luleå and their iron grip on the SDHL is weakening. There is a natural change in the top, with 20 year old Petra Nieminen (23G+27A) and 22 year old Ronja Savolainen (18G+20A) taking over as the highest scoring Finns in the team from veterans Michelle Karvinen (29 yrs) and defender, Hiirikoski (32 yrs).


Brynäs and Djurgården

With four games to go, the top four teams in the league are also known with Brynäs IF and Djurgården IF in third and fourth behind HV71 and Luleå, although the final places of teams 2-4 could yet change.

HV71 are certainly the favourites to win, but it is would be unrealistic to write off any of these four who could all take the title given their performance on the season so far. It will come down to who can adapt best to the demands and tensions of playoff hockey.

Positions 5 to 8

Positions 5-8 are currently held, in descending order by AIK, SDE, Leksand IF and Linköping HC. However, with just nine points between them there is still potential for great change in the final games.

The SDHL is much more even this year, so it is also possible that one of these teams could cause and upset in the playoffs and unseat one the top four. That said, A Brit On Thin Ice does not think that any of these teams have got the firepower or momentum, to win the final should they get that far.


Top scorers

One thing that is almost certain is that Brynäs IF forward, Swiss striker, Lara Stalder will finally win the Total Points and Most Goals trophies. She currently has 65 points (41G+24A), 9 points ahead of HV71’s Canadian star, Kennedy Marchment (pictured). Stalder’s 41 goals in 32 games is truly astounding, giving her an average of 1.28 goals per game, or to put it another way, that in every four games she will score five goals. Impressive!

Linköping HC

Both players were at Linköping HC last year, as well as 2019/20's current top scoring back, American Sidney Morin (also HV71). The Östergötland team must wonder what has happen to them - their top scorer this year, American forward, Zoe Hickel has just 21 points (8G+13A) putting her at number 31 in the Total Points table.

They will face MODO Hockey at home in the last match of regular season. It was probably planned by the organisers to be head-to-head match of two of the best teams in the league prior to the playoffs. Instead, it may end up as a scrap for who do not want to be the relegation zone.

As I said, a lot can change in a year.

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CHL: Frölunda make to fifth final to meet Mountfield

Frölunda Indians continue to show why they are the Champions Hockey’s League’s most successful team, taking themselves to a fifth final in the competition’s six year old history.

They will face Czech opponents in the final for the first time since 2015/6, in the shape of Mountfield BK. The home team put pay to the possibility of another all Swedish final in the CHL by dumping out Djurgården IF by an impressive 6-1 on aggregate.

Frölunda again took the difficult route to the final, going into tonight’s deciding match in Luleå with a 2-3 deficit having been outplayed by the SHL league leaders in Gothenburg last week.

And when Luleå HF scored first to stretch their lead to two goals through the ever present Finn, Juhani Tyrväinen at 13:41 it seemed a repeat on the 2014/5 CHL final might be on the cards with the Norrbotten team coming out on top.

But in the second period the visiting Indians do what they do best - come from behind and take an unlikely victory.

One of the key architects of that was 37 year old captain, Joel Lundqvist. Whilst he may have been their most penalized player, sitting out for six minutes in total, he was a key part of their crucial game changing second period goal when he deftly flicked the puck to New York Islanders drafted Rhett Rakhshani to net on the powerplay at 30:59. He was also the goalscorer of the equalizing goal at 43:19 with a beautiful deflection in front of Luleå netminder, Joel Lassinantti.

Luleå are great on defense and for almost two hours managed to put a lid on Frölunda’s diminutive playmaker, Ryan Lasch so that he was barely noticeable. But the undrafted American was able to do what all great players do - make a difference in one split second when it counts. And at 50:35 he took the puck just at the top of the left hand circle, shifted to the left to beat his man and shot the puck past the Luleå minder up into the net.

Mountfield will be able to look at the match videos and see how to neutralize Frölunda, but the question still remains if they can do it for long enough to prevent the Swedish team taking their fourth CHL trophy at five attempts when the two teams meet in the Czech Republic on 4 February.

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SDHL: Finnish stars dominate as Luleå thrash Brynäs

Brynäs IF are rising stars in the SDHL, have bought a team in the summer of 2018 to challenge at the top of the women's hockey league. Sitting in third before today's match they could take second place away from visiting Luleå/ MSSK if they won.

This top of the table clash was played by 11 of the league's top 16 scorers. But it was the current champions who put on a powerful display to humiliate the young pretenders, who were on home ice. Luleå did it primarily with a third period where they scored three goals without reply to win the game 2-7.

Brynäs got goals through their newly bought stars - drawing level through former Toronto Furies' Michela Cava at the end of the first period at 1-1. Then reducing the deficit to just 2-3 with c. 5 minutes to go in the second period through the league's top scorer and Swiss international, Lara Stalder.

But it was the Finnish pairing of forward, Michelle Karvinen and defender, Ronja Savolainen who, almost single-handedly, destroyed the Gävle team today.

The 29 year old forward has missed nine league matches, as well as an international duty for an undisclosed injury. But Karvinen was back to the kind of form that won her the SDHL top scorer's prize three years in a row from 2015/6-2017/8 with 2G+2A.

Meanwhile the 22 year old Savolainen was involved in all three of the team's final period goals with 1G+2A as she chases HV71's US Olympic Gold medalist, Sidney Morin for the top scoring defender of the year competition.

HV71 remain at the top of the SDHL, but Luleå showed the kind of form which makes them a likely bet to be joining the Jönköping team in the final in a few months time.

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Russia banned from competing at Olympic Games

On Monday 9 December, the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) announced that Russia would be banned from competing in "all major sporting events” for the next four years, therefore including in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games. The announcement follows the failure of the Russian Anti Doping Agency (RUSADA) to comply with WADA's standards in January 2019. The Russians have the possibility of contesting the ruling through the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Sochi

Allegations of Russian doping practices have been widespread since the 2014 Sochi Games where the country was accused of mounting a blanket doping campaign among its athletes and using sophisticated cover up techniques to hide performance enhancing drugs (PED) usage.

Doping in Olympic ice hockey

At Sochi the country’s sixth place in the women’s ice hockey competition was removed from the record books when seven of the team were accused of doping during the Oswald's Commission investigation into Russian doping at the Games. According to InsideTheGames.biz website, two of these athletes returned values that where physically impossible for women to obtain. In the end six players were banned for life from the 2014 squad.

Not that this is the first time that hockey players have been banned from the Winter Olympics for PED use. According to figures from Wikipedia, four hockey players have been banned from participating in the Winter Games between 1974-2010.

But Sochi saw an unprecedented increase with three other hockey players being banned apart from the Russians. They included Washington Capitals' defenseman, Niklas Bäckström. The Swede fell foul of a difference in the rules in the NHL, where his sinusitis medication is legal, and the Olympics, which run under WADA’s stricter rules regarding this medication.

Two of the Latvian team were also banned - Ralfs Freibergs, who has played with the Montreal Canadiens AHL team, and Vitalijs Pavlovs who has played the majority of his career at KHL team, Dynamo Kiev. But both players played in the ECHL the season after Sochi proving the old adage that "no publicity is bad publicity" to be true.

The future of Russian Olympic hockey

Gary Bettman has already indicated that, just as in 2018, it seems unlikely that NHL players will take part in the 2022 Beijing Games. But Russians may have the same “get out of jail free card” that was given them in the fallout from the Sochi scandal. That is the possibility for athletes to compete under the neutral Olympic banner.

In Pyongyang the so called Olympic Athletes of Russia (OAR) team came fourth in the women's tournament but won Gold in overtime against the surprise of tournament, Germany, in the men's tournament. The Game Winning Goal was scored by Minnesota Wild drafted, Kirill Kaprizov (in photo, above and re-live his goal at 2:21 in the official highlights video, below).

Further complications may arise with the ice hockey World Championships, players who currently play in the Russian Kontinental Hockey League as well as if the KHL joins the European wide, Champions Hockey League as the ban relates to "all major sporting events".

However, the Euro 2020 football tournament is scheduled to go ahead in St Petersburg as planned, so there appears to be some flexibility in the ruling - which many have already suggested undermines WADA's ban in the first place.

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SDHL EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW - Zoe Hickel of Linköping

27-year-old, Zoe Hickel, comes from a hockey playing family but describes herself as a regular girl from Alaska, USA who loves the outdoors and cosing down next to the camp fire.

But right now, she’s living with her younger sister, Tori Hickel, in a flat in Sweden’s fastest growing city, Linköping. For the second year in a row the sisters are playing in the same club, but last year it was with the last ever Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) champions, Calgary Inferno.

Growing up Zoe loved skiing as well as hockey. But when it came to taking only one of them seriously it was a no-brainer to choose hockey, “There’s a lot of individual pressure with skiing, but with hockey you get to go through everything as a team, the good and the bad. It’s as individuals come together that everything happens. My best friends have all come out of hockey -it’s a special kinda friendship that you don’t get anywhere else”.

And if you had any doubt about her passion for the sport, you ask her a few questions and watch her face light up, thinking tactics from the off. “Would I be on the same line as Forsberg?” she asks when I ask her which Swedish legend she would rather play in a team with, Peter Forsberg or Henrik Lundqvist? Hickel is a woman who want to play with the best and beat the best.

Her exuberance and experience just flows out of her - not a surprise when you consider in the space of just five years after college she has won the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL), the CWHL championship, two World Championship gold medals as well as being the top scoring American in CWHL in 2018/9.

But now she's in Sweden, “I’m really enjoying it, there’s something special about the place and it’s great to share it with Tori - she can show me all the things she loves about it. Of course, Sweden is where I won my first World Championship medal…” she drops into conversation.

That was in 2015 when Hickel had just graduated from the University of Minnesota-Duluth where she was linemates with Sweden and Linköping star, Pernilla Winberg. The plan at the start of the season was to reform the Winberg-Hickel line. But sadly, the veteran has not played a single minute since she was signed off for concussion at the beginning of October.

But Malmö wasn’t the only place Hickel has collected World Championship gold. The second win came in Kamloops, Canada the following year. “To beat the Canadians in Canada with all the fans against you… that was something special,” she says with smile.

The second Gold medal occurred in the same season that Hickel was part of the Boston Pride team that won the NWHL's inaugural Isobel Cup.

But whilst things started well in the NWHL's second year, out of nowhere suddenly all the players pay was cut, “It was really tough,” she said, “But who can play for a club like the Metropolitan Riveters if they can’t actually earn enough to live in New York?” she points out getting to the crux of the crisis within women’s hockey - it's about people who love the sport and want to make it a career with a living wage.

Hickel, and some of the others from the American national team, chose to cross the border and join the CWHL because of the strength and depth of the player pool as well as being able to get regular practice against their biggest rivals, the Canadians.

When her team, Calgary Inferno, won the 2019 Clarkson Cup final against Les Canadiennes du Montreal multiple Olympic and World Championship Gold medallists were on the ice. "We worked hard all year long and you knew you’d beaten the best ranked players in the world. It was a great feeling!” she reminisced, “Then, a week later, we got a call that league had folded. We were in total shock”.

Hickel said that because her husband works in Calgary, they had been thinking of staying put there for a few years, so it was a terrible moment personally, as well as professionally.

The CWHL’s collapsed on 1 May 2019 led directly to the start of the #ForTheGame movement, which was launched the following day. Over 200 players, including Tori and Zoe Hickel, took dramatic action aimed at creating, "a sustainable professional league for Women's Hockey."

With options closed in North America, the invitation to play in Sweden felt like the right thing to do - Tori would return to the country she had played in for two years after graduating from Northeastern College and take her older sister with her for the ride, “I’m 27 years old now!” she laughed, “but hopefully things will sort themselves out for the next generation of players coming through. To be honest, I’m just focusing on the game here at Linköping HC and letting the PWHPA sort things out back home”.

Whilst 25-year-old Tori has played for Djurgården IF, this is Zoe’s first time in the SDHL. “The game’s different here. In North America is was much more north-south, I’m used to a give-and-go game, but here it’s much more about building up play, maybe that’s to do with the extra space”. She says when asked about the differences in the four different leagues she’s played in.

We move onto Linköping’s season, which for players and fans alike has been disappointing with just four regulation wins (at the time of writing) for last year’s runners up.

“We’ve got an optimistic attitude in the group; this is a good team and we’ve got great goaltending at the back. We just need to break down that wall of bad luck - pucks that bounce the wrong side of the net and so on”.

Personally, Hickel has been thinking a lot about her health, “I’ve just come back from five games out, [Isobel] Palm is coming back but Pernilla is out. I’m trying not to put pressure on myself to score masses of goals, I’ve just got to take care of myself”.

Zoe Hickel and Linköping HC could naval gaze and look back on the season that’s gone. But the double world champion knows that things can change fast in hockey – a couple of good results, remaining injury free, a little bit of Lady Luck and a lot of hard work – and this season could still end up with a gold medal around her neck as she has done everywhere else she’s played.

(Hickel wears #36 in the colours of USA in photo, above).

See video of Zoe Hickel’s first international goal for USA during the Gold medal winning 2015 World Cup campaign, below.

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CHL: Swedish clubs continue to dominate in Europe

Last night in the quarterfinals of the Champions Hockey League three teams from Sweden, three from Switzerland and one a piece from Germany and the Czech Republic remained in the competition.

But by the time the full-time sirens had rung out across Europe all three Swiss teams and the Germans were no longer left, whilst Sweden’s three clubs - Frölunda Indians, Djurgården IF and Luleå Hockey - will all compete in the semifinals alongside the team from the Czech Republic.

Not that it was a foregone conclusion- in three of the games only one goal separated the teams after the first leg on 3 December so all was to play for in the return fixtures.

Djurgården IF alone had a commanding lead after the first leg with a 5-1 win in Stockholm. And they completed the job with ease winning 8-1 in total over last year’s runners up Red Bull Munich.

In the first Swiss-Sweden match up Luleå HF found their way past a spirited Lausanne HC, although the game finishing a convincing 7-3 after the second leg in Sweden.

The other match up between the two nations turned into a CHL classic. Swiss team EHC Biel-Bienne led the match at home 6-4 on aggregate with just 3:58 to go. That was due to two great third period goals from former Edmonton Oilers'Marc-Antonie Pouliot and Austrian international, Peter Schneider. The home team looking set to knockout the current champions.

But Frölunda Indians showed incredible resolve to come back from a two goal deficit, just as they did in the previous round against Farjestad BK.

They sent the game into Overtime through two 6-on-5 goals with their Chicago Blackhawks netminder, Johan Mattson pulled. The gap between the goals was just 29 seconds apart with just 2:31 of regulation left on the clock. They finished off the Swiss when Gothenburg born and bred, Patrik Carlsson, scored in Sudden Death - again with a man advantage on the Power Play. .

The Gothenburg team currently have the competition's top scorer, with undrafted American, Ryan Lasch as well as the top goalscorer remaining in the competition, Samuel Fagemo (pictured). The 2019 Los Angeles Kings drafted Swede who has netted seven times in the CHL and just one more goal will take him to the top of the goal scorers list. They will be in a semifinal that will be a re-run of the first ever CHL final in 2014/5 which was final won by Luleå HF.

Djurgarden will play against Czech team, Mountfield BK, the only non-Swedish side left in the competition. That’s after they shutout EV Zug to complete a miserable night for Swiss club hockey as all three NLA teams crashed out of the competition.

The semi finals will take place on the 7 and 14 January 2020 with Swedish teams Frölunda and Djurgården hosting the first match before the return at Luleå and Mountfield, respectively, the following week.

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SDHL EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW - Georgina Farman of Brynäs

28-year-old Georgina Farman grew up in Hull on England’s east coast, an unlikely place to start an ice hockey career. In a country more well known for football and rugby and where the women’s hockey is almost non-existent, Farman had many mountains to climb before arriving in Europe’s best league.

As a child she started going to watch men’s game and liked it so much that she asked her parents if she could play – and she hasn’t stopped since then. The only option was to play in mixed teams to start with, but by the age of 14 she was already playing for the senior women’s team with Sheffield Shadows – the sister team to the men’s Elite League club, Sheffield Steelers who have competed in the Champions Hockey League. From the age of just 16 yrs. Farman has also been playing for the Great Britain team.

And it was whilst playing for the national team that Farman experienced her career highlight when Great Britain won the 2008 Division III World Championship. They took the gold medal in dramatic fashion with an overtime goal against Slovenia.

Aged 22, her friend and GB national teammate Katie Henry suggested that Farman move to Sweden and play with her at Norrköping. After a successful first season she was invited to join Linköping HC- not their SDHL team, but their Division 1 outfit.

Despite all this, the thought that she could go pro never entered her mind, the option just wasn’t there and it was just a fun hobby.

Farman remembers wanting to play for the elite squad, loving it when she got to train with them and then getting to play her first ever matches at the pro level. So, when Kim Martin Hasson invited her to join the SDHL squad as a defender for the 2015/6 season, it was like a dream come true, “I couldn’t have been more happy, but I knew there was a lot of hard work ahead of me”, the Hull born player said.

Farman was the first Brit to take this step, but would blaze a trail for others to follow such as Great Britain’s captain Leanne Ganney (SDE), forward Louisa Durnell and netminder Nicole Jackson (both Gothenburg HC).

Four seasons at Linköping HC saw Farman establish herself at the top of the sport in Sweden as a tough defender who was more likely to make the game saving poke check that than the Game Winning Goal. She would collect a gold and two silvers in the Swedish national championships at the Östergötland club.

Throughout this article I have used the phrase “pro-hockey” to talk about the elite level of the sport. But as any of you who follow women’s hockey will know, this usually means the athlete has the attitude of a pro, but must also have another job in order to pay the bills which fits into the demanding schedule of training and travelling to away matches. For Farman, working from home as an accountant has been the surprising compliment to committed hockey lifestyle.

After four years in Linköping the Great Britain defender was in the mood for a change and decided to make the move north to Brynäs IF. And in the summer of 2019 the Gävle club made a number of attention-grabbing signings showing they have only one thing in mind – to win the SDHL. The Englishwoman has been reunited with former Linköping teammates, including the Swiss pairing of the sharp shooting Lara Stalder and fellow defender, Sarah Forster as well as Swedish two ways forward, Emma Muren.

But for Farman it is the team effort that is making the difference, “things are going really well at Brynäs. The team is great,” she says,” I think we have a lot of talented players but we all work hard together as a team and that’s what is getting us the points”.

At the time of writing Farman’s Brynäs sit in third place, just two points behind Djurgården IF. And whilst HV71 are currently at the top, Brynäs beat them 7-2 at home, so don’t be surprised if this team goes all the way and wins their first ever SDHL championship in spring 2020.

The Video clip is from IIHF 2012 World Championship, with no sound on the original.

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A Brit On Thin Ice

SDHL: Boquist returns to Sweden

Leksand IF visited Linköping HC on Sunday afternoon, in the last SDHL match before the international break and play resumes on 20 December for both teams with a return match up in Tegera Arena.

Last season the two clubs finished third (LHC) and fourth (LIF) - but this year they both find themselves at the bottom of the table going into the break in seventh and eighth, just above the relegation zone occupied by another former top club, MODO Hockey, and perennial stragglers, Gothenburg HC.

Sunday's match was the second time the two team's had met at Stångebro Hallen this year - but for Leksand IF it was another unwanted defeat. However, one of the differences between the two matches was that the Canadian, Brooke Boquist, was in the the blue and white dress of the visitors.

The 23 year old Providence College graduate scored the team's consolation goal to leave the final score as 4-2 to the home side.

But Boquist is no stranger to the SDHL.

This is actually her second year outside of the NCAA and her second year in Sweden, where last year she was at MODO Hockey (see photo). She was one of several Canadians at the club, included Michela Cava and Kaitlyn Tougas. In fact, Boquist and these two are all from the same town, Thunder Bay, Ontario.

But, unfortunately for the young star and the Örnsköldsvik club, Boquist received concussion and did not play for the second half of the season having been one of the league's top scorers with 20 points in 17 games, including 11 goals in 2018/9.

She has now been back in Sweden for Leksand for nine games, in which she has already amassed 10 points meaning she is at almost the exactly the same average as last year with 1.17 PPG.

To give you an idea of her talent, that puts her at a similar the production rate as Luleå/ MSSK's European international players, Emma Nordin (SWE) and Noora Tulus (FIN) as well at former teammate, Tougas.

The second half of Leksand's season will be focused on staying clear of the relegation zone and then mounting a playoff campaign which could take them further than last year's disappointing loss in the quarterfinals.

And you can guarantee that Brooke Boquist will play an important part in that journey. And, despite a year's break from Swedish hockey, the Canadian is already showing the kind of form which will be keeping the opposition's backs and goaltenders very busy before the 2019/20 season ends.

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